Pike Place Market

Our Market is second to none in terms of intriguing juxtapositions. Besides 500 actual neighborhood residents (mostly low-income tenants and seniors), Pike Place houses curiosity shops, a leftist bookstore, a giant shoe museum, and countless single-product food stores (two of our favorites: the pepper-jelly place and Uli's Famous, the sausage emporium). It's also one of Seattle's most sophisticated dining districts, with a collection of eateries to rival those in Belltown and Madison Valley, not to mention San Francisco and Los Angeles. If you're not a big spender, take heart: More often than not, even the smallest, most affordable Market establishments are gems. In theory, you could live your whole life in Pike Place Market and never want for anything . . . except, perhaps, the Capitol Hill nightlife. Oh, well—no neighborhood is perfect. Neal Schindler Café Campagne Café Campagne—the downstairs sister restaurant to Campagne and an absolute must-try dining experience at Pike Place Market—exudes such a high level of Frenchness, one may close one's eyes and easily imagine the Champs Elysées, complete with ambulating Parisians coursing past the front door of the cafe. Serving brunch, lunch, and dinner, CC's menu offers delectable French bistro-style items. Have a seat on one of their wooden banquettes, and ask your waiter or waitress—who will also be French-looking and adorable—to recommend a good glass of wine. Then peruse the appetizer menu; perhaps pick the escargot de bourgogne, roasted in a pseudo–parsley pesto with shallots and garlic. Also, the pâté de campagne, a chicken- and goose-liver ensemble, is exquisite; it melts and blossoms in your mouth with subtle aromas and handsome flavor. An entrée could be one of the days-of-the-week specials (always fresh, local ingredients) or comfort food like the roasted half chicken. C'est si bon! S.S. 86 Pine Street, 206-728-2800. $$ www.campagnerestaurant.com Il Bistro If Mafia caterer Artie Bucco on The Sopranos were to open a restaurant in Seattle, it would look a lot like this. Besides the handsome oak floors and cavelike dining space nestled secretively beneath Pike Place Market, Il Bistro boasts a compact menu that redraws the line between artful innovation and respectful traditionalism. The antipasto is a gem: Several generous curls of fine Parmigiano-Reggiano rest on layers of sliced salsiccia and salami, with impeccably roasted vegetables hiding below. Heady experiments in nouveau—like the Belgian endive/Dungeness crab salad with creamy mint dressing—merely lead the way to the Old World splendor of the caretto d'agnello, a painterly rack of lamb in sangiovese-rosemary sauce: sunrise pink on the inside, lightly charred without. Even turbulent Tony Soprano couldn't raise an objection. The balsamic served over a light dessert of fresh straw­berries and mascarpone is 25 years old, the Greyhounds at the bar are made with fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, and the maître d' really knows his Chianti. N.S. 93A Pike St., 206-682-3049. $$$ www.ilbistro.net Matt's in the Market It's misleading to call Matt's the Pike Place Market's best-kept secret, because the place is packed nearly every day, and chances are, if you don't have a reservation, you're going to be waiting a while. But enough people have given us puzzled looks when we've mentioned it to them that it certainly deserves to be recognized as one of the area's leading cult favorites. Mostly counter service, with a couple of tables near the window, Matt's offers excellent, frequently joking, always personable service. Their fish is delish (the Honkin' Hot Albacore Tuna sandwich with mustard pickle relish is a reliable favorite, as is the gumbo), but even a couple vegetarians of our acquaintance swear by the place. Maybe that's because for dessert Matt's offers excellent sorbet served in a bowl welded to a plate with spreadable honey. M.M. 94 Pike St., Ste. 32., 206-467-7909. $$ Maximilien The narrow passageway that leads to Maximilien is lined with framed reviews declaring it a great place to kiss: a love nest with a view. But when you aren't necking mid–hors d'oeuvre or gazing glassily upon the water, the kitchen provides sex appeal and pleasant vistas aplenty. The Dungeness crab parfait is a dollop of luscious crab salad finished with chunks of Granny Smith apple and shaved fennel. Papillote de cabillaud aux herbes fraîches (cod in parchment paper with herbs) is like a culinary birthday present; your server might ceremoniously slice the paper to release great plumes of aromatic steam, only to remark, "I just love that smell!" As you eat, you may overhear a suited squadron of traveling businessmen armchair-coach last night's Red Sox game—until their mussels Provençale and cassoulet arrive. Then a satisfied quiet suffuses the place as the dark bay water glimmers with ferry lights. N.S. 81A Pike St., 206-682-7270. $$$ www.maximilienrestaurant.com PAN AFRICA You won't find a warmer, more tantalizing midpriced restaurant in Pike Place Market. Pan Africa provides the grab-and-go Market scene with a much-needed haven, a place where you can eat West African fare with your hands and bask in the earthy heat of the food and the music. And the place lives up to its name: Though the Ethiopian combo platters are excellent, Pan Africa ventures far beyond that cuisine; this ambitious little eatery also serves up seafood stews from Madagascar and chicken dishes from Senegal. One such dish, chicken yassa, is prepared with lemon, onions, green olives, and saffron—a striking blend of Mediterranean flavors indicative of the region's deep impact on African cooking. Owner Mulugeta Abate has developed this hidden gem into a community center of sorts; he offers Tuesday-night classes that tackle one national cuisine at a time. Even if you don't have time for cooking school, Pan Africa's lively menu and bighearted celebration of African culture will teach you volumes. N.S. 1521 First Ave., 206-652-2461. $$ Piroshky-Piroshky So it's just barely a sit-down place. So what? You'll be glad they have stools and a counter in wintertime, when the best piroshky bakery in town—a place roughly the size of a storage locker—is the only thing that stands between you and the cold, gray Seattle sky. There's a reason these rib-sticking pastries originated in frosty Russia; fillings like potato and cheese, sauerkraut, smoked salmon, and lamb and onion are a piping-hot reward for making it through the thick, buttery bread shell. Every culture seems to have its equivalent—Indian samosas and Italian calzones, for example—but the miraculous piroshky is by far the heartiest, most satisfying version of the bread-with-filling concept. If you could curl up like a dormouse and sleep in Piroshky-Piroshky from November till March, we bet you would. N.S. 1908 Pike Place, 206-441-6068. $ Place Pigalle Located just above the Alibi Room in Pike Place Market's unofficial Swank District, Pigalle affords about three lucky tables a lovely slice of Elliott Bay view and everybody else a Rear Window view of a large residential complex across the way. But don't let the many human dramas unfolding therein distract you from Pigalle's kicky menu, chockablock with tempting seafood choices. Chilled crab, half or whole, is a satisfying splurge of a starter; if Alaskan halibut is the entrée special, order it. The French- inspired menu has enough breadth and flair to encompass both old-fashioned rabbit roulade and fusion ingredients like jicama and daikon. And if we described in words what Pigalle's crème brûlée reminds us of, you'd probably blush; suffice it to say that both the crème and the poached-pear tartlet are required eating. You can be sure the people across the way aren't dining nearly as well. N.S. 81 Pike St., 206-624-1756. $$$ Vivanda Don't go to Vivanda alone; the way the windows frame that gorgeous view of Elliott Bay, especially right before dusk, is something worth sharing. Though less than two years old, this Italian-inspired Pike Place Market spot already feels like a mainstay. Exposed pipes, luminous earth tones, and a gleaming bar—the trappings scream European upscale-contempo, and it's no false front. The kitchen turns out game, steak, and fish with great attention to detail (particularly where presentation is concerned), but the real selling point is Vivanda's obsession with lobster. The oft-imposing crustacean is made accessible here through a grilled lobster salad with organic greens and lemon vinaigrette, a lobster mac and cheese with bits of black truffle, and amazing ravioli that pack the complex flavor of lobster into each bite—rounded out with rock shrimp, crushed tomato, and basil, the dish comes off as a wonderful study in bright and muted flavors. For dessert, you must try the pink grapefruit sorbet; between that and the sunset, a second date is almost guaranteed. N.S. 95 Pine St., 206-344-7341. $$$ www.vivanda.com food@seattleweekly.com

 
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